Memorable Conferences: How to Make Them Last

As IMA’s Professor-in-Residence, I travel to at least six conferences per year around the world to speak about accounting education, to advance accounting practice, and to network with like-minded professionals. I just got back from Budapest where I attended the General Assembly of the International Group of Controlling (IGC), of which IMA is a member. It was a great meeting that offered informative presentations and many opportunities for knowledge sharing with a beautiful city as the backdrop. These factors made the meeting memorable for me because they all contribute to my being able to help advance the management accounting profession. Here are a few more thoughts on how to make your conference experience more memorable.

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KNOWLEDGE SHARING
Typically, well-known speakers draw attendees to conferences. Hearing from passionate, animated industry experts make the sessions a lot more interesting and memorable. To this end, IMA hosts popular and inspiring speakers at our Annual Conference & Expo. This year Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s will talk about being an entrepreneur, J.R. Martinez will talk about rising above our challenges, and Stephen Dubner will expand our view about business issues. Each has his own way of passing on knowledge and best practices to the next generation of business professionals.

It’s also important to hear the speaker’s insights to stimulate your thinking and provide you with ideas to bring back home. For instance, at the meeting in Budapest, Péter Horváth had a session about management accounting vs. controlling – the German version of management accounting. Horváth is considered the “Father of German Controlling,” and he had thought-provoking insights regarding the relationship between controlling, management accounting, management control systems, and performance measurement. This was followed by a cutting-edge presentation by Professor Dr. Klaus Möller on controlling innovation. Passionate, informed speakers such as these lead engaging, interactive sessions, so choose a speaker you’re interested in and ask questions. That will make your conference experience even more memorable!

BRING HOME THE VALUE
The most memorable part of a conference is the knowledge and value you bring back to your company, and value comes in many forms. The conferences I attend allow me to promote IMA and the management accounting profession while developing long-term relationships. At these meetings I form relationships with academics and practitioners from around the world, discuss emerging practices, and connect with possible future business partners. Attending these face-to-face meetings shows your peers that you’re truly dedicated to your profession and passionate about the work you do.

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You can also see the reach of your profession through the many conference attendees. For example, in Budapest I was able to learn first-hand the state of management accounting in many countries and how it’s developing among the local practitioners. It expanded my understanding of how management accounting is practiced globally, and the role IMA can play in advancing our profession.

EXPAND YOUR VIEW
There are many ways to make your conference experience memorable. Whether you attend for the people, location, or sessions, conferences help broaden your career horizon and also help you grow on both personal and professional levels. At the end of the day, attending a conference says a lot about you – that you’re passionate about your career, that you’re dedicated to your profession, and that you choose to increase your professional knowledge. Make it a point this year to attend at least one conference in your field to prove to yourself and your peers that you’re serious about your future.

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

Related articles:
How to Choose Which Conferences to Attend – Intuit QuickBooks
TED Founder Reveals How You Can Create a Memorable Event – American Express

Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

In the past I’ve talked about how continuing your education by earning certifications and participating in mentoring programs can be beneficial to your career. Another important form of continuing education is attending a professional conference. Conferences should be a fun, engaging experience where you learn new skills and make professional contacts. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next professional conference.

Personal Development Plan
Before you go to the conference, spend some time reviewing the program and choosing the sessions you want to attend. Think about this in the context of your career goals. Write down what you want to achieve in the next few years (e.g., job change, promotion, etc.). Then do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and choose sessions that will help you address the needs you have identified.

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I’m a huge advocate of lifelong continuing education, and conferences are great learning forums. Conference sessions offer a variety of educational opportunities and, depending on your area of interest, can include discussions of top industry trends, how-to sessions, and motivational presentations. Not only can you learn from leading experts in the field, but you can also get inspired by hearing motivational life stories.

Attending the session is only the first step. What is perhaps even more important is applying what you learned on the job. That is how you reinforce what you’ve learned, improving your skills and helping you be more effective in your job.

Networking
There are so many opportunities for networking at conferences. It can be intimidating at first to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, but when you do, you’ll be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. You might also make a valuable contact who will help you a great deal in your career, solve a current business problem, or offer career advice.

10458451_10152330358455829_6042484930867715104_nNetworking is also about helping others. Your knowledge and experience is valuable, and sharing it with someone else could help them in their job and perhaps help them advance their career. And you might also make a lifelong friend! Many of the attendees of conferences I attend, including IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, became friends when they met at the conference. Conferences almost always build in time for social activities that keep it fun.

Many conferences now have mobile apps that allow you to not only plan your session attendance on your mobile device but also connect with other attendees both before and after the event.

Something for Everyone
Conferences are offered in nearly every area of interest. I attend IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo nearly every year and find it to be a great way to stay current in the field of management accounting. Every couple of years, I also attend conferences for testing professionals and association management, since I have to stay current in those fields as well. Attending conferences helps me stay connected with the latest industry trends and techniques and to other professionals in the field.

If you haven’t been to a conference yet, I encourage you do so as soon as you can. When you ask your boss for approval, be prepared. Show him or her which sessions you plan to attend and what skills and resources you intend to bring back to your job. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo is coming up in June, and we can’t wait!

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

Related Articles:
“6 Secrets to Better Networking at Conferences” – Dave Kerpen, LinkedIn
“4 Reasons Your Employees Should Attend Conferences” – Janine Popick, Inc. Magazine

Top Technology Trends for Management Accountants

There’s no doubt that technology plays a huge role in business today, including in accounting and finance. New technologies will always emerge, which can make it confusing for businesses to focus on the most relevant ones. Not all technology trends will necessarily apply to management accounting and finance; so it’s necessary to filter through and match solutions to your company’s unique needs.

IMA’s Technology Solutions & Practices (TS&P) Committee recently undertook some research and analysis to gather market literature and insight into a full slate of technology trends in an effort to filter through and find those most meaningful to management accountants. This short list of technology trends will serve as the basis for resources in order to understand these technologies and how they apply to management accountants.  Here are the trends identified by the committee for 2015-2016.

SEO optimization, programming process1.    Business Intelligence and Analytics
With mountains of both structured and unstructured Big Data growing daily, companies must glean meaning from the most relevant data to drive decision making. Powerful cloud-based tools exist to help companies perform advanced analytics (e.g., predictive and prescriptive analytics) to gain intelligence about the business and more insight into where it’s headed.


2.    Data Governance

A sound data governance strategy sets the foundation for a company to ensure its information assets are accessible, usable for analysis, and of the highest quality and reliability. If data can’t be used or trusted, it’s almost worthless to the company. Data governance strategies, which are now growing in practice, help companies define the proper controls and monitoring systems to ensure access, utility, and quality.

3.    Mobile Computing
As smartphones and tablets evolve, so will the environment they occupy. Your office will be virtual – wherever you can connect to the Internet. vector illustration of mobile optimization and analyticsSmartwatches and other wearable gadgets are also catching up in usability and allow for constant connectivity to your work space.

4.    Big Data
With the increase in mobile computing and growth of our digital footprint comes an increase in Big Data. You will need optimal analytics skills and tools to process such data efficiently and effectively to make appropriate business decisions.

5.    Cloud
Today, nearly 50% of U.S. businesses use the cloud. You may already use it in your day-to-day work, but companies that don’t currently use cloud technology will be left behind this year. There are many options to choose from to fit your company’s specific needs.

6.    Internet of Things
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) refers to the connection of more and more devices to the Internet, including household devices like thermostats and TVs and business tools like vehicle fleets. IoT generates both more Big Data (to be filtered through) and intelligence about the business, which helps bring greater efficiency and process improvement, among other benefits, to businesses.

7.    Cyber and Physical Security
The increase in cybercrime over the past few years has proved how important it is to protect your company’s data. Not only will you need to improve your risk assessment and management tools, but you’ll also need to properly secure your physical infrastructure.

8.    Smart Machines and Automation
This year will push smart machines ahead of the curve. With the ability to learn and adapt to their environment, there are no limits to what they can do. Companies should know how to use this ever-evolving artificial intelligence to their advantage.

Which trends are on your company’s radar? Have you had to make any changes to your systems or processes?

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles

Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015 – Forbes
Digital Darwinism: Thriving in the Face of Technology Change – IMA, ACCA

Volunteers Create the True Moments that Matter

Welcome to National Volunteer Week, which runs from April 12 to 18 this year. It’s a time to give thanks and show appreciation for those who selflessly volunteer for a cause close to their heart. As with many nonprofits, here at IMA the service, spirit, and inspiration of our volunteers is something we appreciate and cherish throughout the year around the world. Volunteering has mutual benefits, surely for the organization and for the individuals in building their personal brand, becoming an expert in their field, and building their résumé.

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A personal brand is the identity you project through your values, career, and beliefs. Everyone has a personal brand, but it’s up to you how to manage it. Volunteering for a cause close to your heart is one way to build a personal brand. You can do this through volunteering with an organization, alumni association, or community project. Once you’ve decided on a cause to volunteer for, make it a point to volunteer often and regularly to truly build a name for yourself within that community.

Become an Expert
Being published in magazines or other media sources will help prove that you’re an expert in your field. IMA has various publications that will help you share your expertise, including Strategic Finance and Management Accounting Quarterly, IMA Educational Case Journal, research endorsed by IMA’s Research Foundation, and more. In turn, your contributions can help give guidance to other professionals to perform their jobs more effectively, advance their careers, and grow personally and professionally. When you write about what you know and love, writing comes naturally. And the more you write about those topics, the more credibility you will build with your audience and the media sources.

Build Your Résumé
Volunteers’ time, effort, and passion help drive the mission of the organization. At IMA, individuals are dedicated at all levels – from the local chapter level to the global board level. And volunteering is a continuous learning opportunity – start as a student volunteering on your college campus and continue as long as you are inspired and seek to inspire others. These opportunities are perfect for building your résumé by gaining leadership experience and other soft skills. There are endless opportunities for you to follow your passion while adding value to your community.

Z-fyDSGm6XivP5biogrTsURnMRPhzTAA4YJzaKcIb_sVolunteers At IMA
IMA genuinely appreciates the volunteers who not only built this association nearly a century ago but in many ways created a new profession. Our volunteers enable IMA to sustain its growth in the face of competition, consolidation, and commoditization. IMA’s volunteers at the global, national, and local community levels are truly a competitive asset that we cherish and that no other association can claim (for example, IMA has nearly 350 chapters, including 130 student chapters globally). In terms of ensuring mutual benefit – the “value in volunteerism” – there are many ways for you to be involved as an engaged, relevant, and inspired volunteer.

The current Chair of IMA’s Global Board of Directors, Joe Vincent, is the perfect example of lifelong volunteerism. He started volunteering before he graduated college for his local IMA chapter. He now has 40 years of leadership experience gathered at the local, regional, and global levels and continues to dedicate his time to the profession he’s passionate about. Read more about Joe’s most rewarding experiences of volunteering on LinkedIn.

Personally, I’m growing every day as a leader and business professional. Becoming CEO of an organization isn’t the end of the learning and growth journey. In many ways it’s the start of a new journey to inspire, to make a difference, and to touch a heart. My growth since becoming IMA’s CEO in 2008 is in no small part because of the countless volunteers I’ve worked with. Our volunteers truly have created moments that matter in how they donate time to their association, profession, and communities. I can tell endless stories of how volunteers took time off from their “day jobs” to escort me around when I make visits to the region and took the time to establish new connections and new relationships that truly make a difference.

I encourage you to support your community or a cause close to your heart because volunteers provide increasing value to the community or organization, but also you can take advantage of the benefits of it. And we at IMA extend our appreciation to our volunteers every hour, every day, and every week around the globe.

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

Related Articles
Benefits of Volunteering — United Way
Volunteer Leadership – What’s In It For You? — Moments that Matter (Linda Devonish-Mills)

Change Management: Employee Transitions

Taking on a new system or initiative isn’t always an easy transition. Without employee buy-in, the project may risk not getting off the ground at all. But understanding the cycle of emotions that employees experience will help you craft a communication plan to ease the implementation process.

The Reason
Change is common in the business world, but that doesn’t mean employees embrace it with open arms. Implementing new systems and improved software help your business run smoothly, so why is there so much friction among employees during the implantation process?

For one, it’s a natural reaction to question the change – things work fine as they are, why do I need to learn something different? Another factor is an individual’s emotional intelligence and adaptability. Some people adapt more easily than others and are more welcoming of change. If you learn how to understand the emotional cycle of your employees, you’ll be able to break down the wall of resistance so that future implementations go smoother.

The Cycle
There are eight stages of the cycle (see Figure 1 from Managing Organizational Change in Operational Change Initiatives).

figure 1. change curve

The “curve” starts at normal production levels and dips as morale gets lower. Here’s a list of each of the stages explained:

Pre-Initiative: Employees are unaware of the changes and are used to the status quo.
Denial: Employees reject the change because they don’t believe it will happen based on past failures.
Anger, Pessimism, Despair: Employees experience negative emotions toward the project. They’re irritated about learning a new process that they didn’t request. In turn, their work productivity takes a downward turn.
Testing: Employee productivity improves when they get hands-on experience with the new system or software. They become more comfortable with the change.
Acceptance: Employees are finished training and accept their new roles.
Post-Initiative Success: Employees are fully trained and operate at a higher level than before the change occurred.

Communication is important in any company, but it’s especially key for successful change management.

The Plan
Once you understand the emotional cycle you can create a communication plan based on the pros and cons of human emotion. The plan allows you to assess each audience: how early do they have to be engaged, how often do they have to be engaged after the Pre-Initiative stage, and what medium to engage them in. (See Template 1 from Managing Organizational Change in Operational Change Initiatives for a guide.)

template 1. communication plan

In the beginning stages of the implementation, it’s important to have open and honest conversations with your team to ensure everyone understands the scope, timeline, and benefits of the project. Then you’ll be able to determine how often you need to communicate with each team member during the implementation.

How does your company deal with new implementations? Do you have a communication plan in place?

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

 

Related Articles:

Managing Organizational Change in Operational Change Initiatives – IMA
Change Management Best Practices Guide – Queensland Government

Study NOW: Breaking Through Procrastination

“Stop putting it off.” “The exam date isn’t going to move, I have to start studying now.” “The books aren’t going to read themselves.” These are some common sayings you can use to motivate yourself to start studying for the big exam coming up. But, whether you’re a student working toward an A+ or a professional studying to earn a certification, telling yourself to study might not be motivational enough. Here are some ways I got through studying for the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam that might also work for you.

1. Make a checklist.Lao - quote - DW
Write down your goals in the order in which you want to accomplish them. Your first goal might be to read and take notes from chapter 3 of your textbook. Your next goal, say, for the following week would be to read chapter 4. Setting small goals in a relatively short amount of time will help you progress and feel accomplished. It’s like what Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

2. Reward yourself.
After you complete each small goal, reward yourself by doing something you like but have been putting off, like taking a hike or going for a run. Not only will it relax you, but it will de-stress your mind for the moment.

3. Picture success.
There’s nothing more motivating than having a clear vision of your end goal. It can be a tangible object that symbolizes your goal, like an empty frame awaiting your certificate, or an intangible one, like the increase in salary you may receive after earning a certification or college degree.*

4. Hold yourself accountable.
When I studied for the CMA exam, I set deadlines for myself and made a checklist. That way I was able to keep track of my progress and hold myself accountable for my success. I also involved other people in my journey – my family was very supportive, even though my daughter was a baby at the time, and my boss didn’t mind me studying during my lunch break.

5. Follow your passion.
Remind yourself why you chose the field of accounting. One reason I’m sure is the job opportunities that this field offers, but hopefully you also chose accounting because you find it interesting. Studying can be tough, but you don’t have to be an accounting nerd to enjoy working on a challenging accounting problem. If you don’t cram and you pace yourself, you might actually find studying a rewarding experience!

iStock_000014804702_Large - balance6. Maintain work/life balance.
Don’t avoid the most important things, and don’t make other things more important. Earning the CMA credential was important, but family was always my number one priority

7. Guard against constructive procrastination.
Essentially, don’t wait for the perfect conditions. You don’t have to paint the room or wash the dishes to get into the right mind-set. Someone I knew in college had to write a paper but couldn’t write it until he had the perfect desk. He found the perfect desk, but it was too late to hand in the paper.

The Time to Start Is Now
Studying doesn’t have to be tiresome or boring. If you do a little bit at a time and plan your schedule, you will eventually reach your goal. And don’t forget: Other people out there are just like you. So if you’re struggling and need a push, find a face-to-face study group that might be able to help you along the way.

How do you stay passionate about something you aren’t passionate about anymore?
Have you ever procrastinated on a project at work? How did you get through it?

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

 

Related Articles

Tips for Studying for the CMA or CPA While Working – Accounting Web
How to Stay Motivated and Accomplish Anything – Forbes

How IR Affects Small Business

The International Integrated Reporting Framework was released by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) in December 2013. Since then, companies around the world have been working to implement the Framework to more cohesively and efficiently report on their ability to creat value over the short, medium and long term. So how does that impact small businesses within the larger picture? I asked Brad Monterio, managing director of Colcomgroup and vice chair of IMA’s Technology Solutions & Practices Committee, about Integrated Reporting (<IR>) and what small business owners should expect for the future.

LDM: What can <IR> do for small businesses?Quotes-03-02-15
BM: <IR> benefits businesses of all sizes. As popularity grows for <IR> around the world, a common misperception is that it’s only for the largest companies or publicly traded companies. The purpose behind <IR> is to provide a way to tell a company’s unique story to stakeholders; link its business strategy to its business model; and report how it will create value over the short, medium, and long term.

LDM: Are there any downfalls?
BM: As companies become more familiar with the <IR> Framework from the IIRC, there will be less of a learning curve for them. <IR> is an evolved way of looking at not only how the company reports information to stakeholders but how it operates internally. This manifests through a culture of integrated thinking where the areas of the business work more collaboratively toward its goals, which is a shift in dynamic for many small businesses. The shift takes time to adjust to.

LDM: Small businesses have fewer staff and smaller revenue pools than large companies. Could that potentially hold them back from integrating <IR>?
BM: <IR> isn’t intended to increase the reporting burden; in fact, quite the opposite. It’s designed to help improve and streamline the disclosure process (to make reporting better, not bigger). Leveraging existing disclosure vehicles, such as financial statements and annual reports, to communicate <IR> information helps smaller businesses. A culture of integrated thinking will help businesses collaborate internally and be more efficient with their resources as well as how they share information, reducing redundancies.

LDM: Why is <IR> important for small businesses?
BM: <IR> has many benefits and outcomes, including keeping pace with or surpassing competitors. But those aren’t the only reasons to undertake a transition to <IR>. Linking the company strategy and business model to how a company uses all of its resources in that business model Quote2-03-02-15helps a company more clearly understand what’s happening inside its business. This means they can more accurately portray what’s happening to stakeholders outside their business and communicate their value more effectively.

LDM: What else do small-business leaders need to know about <IR>?
BM: <IR> isn’t sustainability reporting as you might see with GRI or CSR reports. Sustainability reports look at both financial and nonfinancial information but don’t typically go as far as an integrated report in linking strategy and business model to future economic value. Additionally, actual accounting standards for sustainability topics in the market require companies to report on material nonfinancial matters. This helps streamline the reports and bring comparability to this content in all types of reports.

MORE WAYS TO LEARN
If you’re an IMA member, you can participate in a webinar that Brad is moderating on March 10 called “Integrated Reporting and Integrated Thinking: Which Comes First?” – which is part of IMA’s new Tech Talk series. If you aren’t a member, read his article “Integrated Reporting: A Chat with the Experts” from Strategic Finance. You can also read more on the Technology Solutions & Practices Committee’s LinkUp community.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

 

Related Articles

Leading Practices in Integrated ReportingStrategic Finance
International Integrated Reporting Framework – IIRC